Equality: Raising our children

Illustrasjon: Eivind Gulliksen


I came across this wonderful article by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that expresses many of my thoughts on how we might raise children to equality. I realize parents can only do so much by themselves, but those first few years when parents have an almost godlike status for their children lay an important foundation when dealing with others. Both men and women need to let go of their preconceived ideas of what the other should do/be. The entire article can be found at the above link.

… I matter. I matter equally. Not ‘if only.’ Not ‘as long as.’ I matter equally. Full stop.

The second tool is a question: can you reverse X and get the same results?

For example: many people believe that a woman’s feminist response to a husband’s infidelity should be to leave. But I think staying can also be a feminist choice, depending on the context. If Chudi sleeps with another woman and you forgive him, would the same be true if you slept with another man? If the answer is yes then your choosing to forgive him can be a feminist choice because it is not shaped by a gender inequality. Sadly, the reality in most marriages is that the answer to that question would often be no, and the reason would be gender-based – that absurd idea of ‘men will be men.’

Here are my suggestions:

Reject the idea of motherhood and work as mutually exclusive

1. First Suggestion: Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood. Be a full person. Your child will benefit from that. The pioneering American journalist Marlene Sanders once said to a younger journalist, “Never apologize for working. You love what you do, and loving what you do is a great gift to give your child.”

You don’t even have to love your job; you can merely love what your job does for you – the confidence and self-fulfillment that come with doing and earning. Reject the idea of motherhood and work as mutually exclusive. Our mothers worked full time while we were growing up, and we turned out well – at least you did, the jury is still out on me.

when there is true equality, resentment does not exist.

It doesn’t surprise me that your sister-in-law says you should be a ‘traditional’ mother and stay home, that Chudi can afford not to have a ‘double income’ family.

People will selectively use ‘tradition’ to justify anything. Tell her that a double-income family is actually the true Igbo tradition because in pre-colonial times, mothers farmed and traded. And then please ignore her; there are more important things to think about.

In these coming weeks of early motherhood, be kind to yourself. Ask for help. Expect to be helped. There is no such thing as a Superwoman. Parenting is about practice – and love. (I do wish though that ‘parent’ had not been turned into a verb, which I think is the root of the middle-class phenomenon of ‘parenting’ as one endless, anxious journey of guilt).

Give yourself room to fail. A new mother does not necessarily know how to calm a crying baby. Don’t assume that you should know everything. Look things up on the Internet, read books, ask older parents, or just do trial and error. Let your focus be on remaining a full person. Take time for yourself. Nurture your own needs.

Please do not think of it as ‘doing it all.’ Our culture lauds the idea of women who are able to ‘do it all’ but does not question the premise of that praise. I have no interest in the debate about women ‘doing it all’ because it is a debate that assumes that care-giving and domestic work are exclusively female domains, an idea that I strongly reject. Domestic work and care-giving should be gender-neutral, and we should be asking not whether a woman can ‘do it all’ but how best to support parents in their dual duties at work and at home.

2. Second Suggestion: Do it together. Remember in primary school we learnt that a verb was a ‘doing’ word? Well, a father is as much a verb as a mother. Chudi should do everything that biology allows – which is everything but breastfeeding. Sometimes mothers, so conditioned to be all and do all, are complicit in diminishing the role of fathers. You might think that Chudi will not bathe her exactly as you’d like, that he might not wipe her bum as perfectly as you do. But so what? What is the worst that can happen? She won’t die at the hands of her father. So look away, arrest your perfectionism, still your socially-conditioned sense of duty. Share childcare equally. ‘Equally’ of course depends on you both. It does not have to mean a literal fifty-fifty or a day-by-day score-keeping but you’ll know when the child-care work is equally shared. You’ll know by your lack of resentment. Because when there is true equality, resentment does not exist.

And please reject the language of help. Chudi is not ‘helping’ you by caring for his child. He is doing what he should. When we say fathers are ‘helping,’ we are suggesting that childcare is a mother’s territory, into which fathers valiantly venture. It is not. Can you imagine how many more people today would be happier, more stable, better contributors to the world, if only their fathers had been actively present in their childhood? And never say that Chudi is ‘babysitting’ – people who babysit are people for whom the baby is not a primary responsibility.

‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever.

Chudi does not deserve any special gratitude or praise, nor do you – you both made the choice to bring a child into the world, and the responsibility for that child belongs equally to you both. It would be different if you were a single mother, whether by circumstance or choice, because ‘doing it together’ would then not be an option. But you should not be a ‘single mother’ unless you are truly a single mother.

My friend Nwabu once told me that, because his wife left when his kids were young, he became ‘Mr. Mom,’ by which he meant that he did the daily care-giving. But he was not being a ‘Mr. Mom,’ he was simply being a dad.

3. Third Suggestion: Teach her that ‘gender roles’ is absolute nonsense. Do not ever tell her that she should do or not do something “because you are a girl.”

“The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina.”

‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever.

I remember being told as a child to ‘bend down properly while sweeping, like a girl.’ Which meant that sweeping was about being female. I wish I had been told simply ‘bend down and sweep properly because you’ll clean the floor better.’ And I wish my brothers had been told the same thing.

There have been recent Nigerian social media debates about women and cooking, about how wives have to cook for husbands. It is funny, in the way that sad things are funny, that in 2016 we are still talking about cooking as some kind of ‘marriageability test’ for women.

The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina. Cooking is learned. Cooking – domestic work in general – is a life skill that both men and women should ideally have. It is also a skill that can elude both men and women.

We also need to question the idea of marriage as a prize to women, because that is the basis of these absurd debates. If we stop conditioning women to see marriage as a prize, then we would have fewer debates about a wife needing to cook in order to earn that prize.

If we don’t place the straitjacket of gender roles on young children we give them space to reach their full potential.

It is interesting to me how early the world starts to invent gender roles. Yesterday I went to a children’s shop to buy Chizalum an outfit. In the girls’ section were pale phenomena in washed-out shades of pink. I disliked them. The boys’ section had outfits in vibrant shades of blue. Because I think blue will be adorable against her brown skin – and photograph better – I bought one. At the check out counter, the cashier said mine was the perfect present for the new boy. I said it was for a baby girl. She looked horrified. “Blue for a girl?”

I cannot help but wonder about the clever marketing person who invented this pink-blue binary. There was also a ‘gender neutral’ section, with its array of bloodless grays. ‘Gender neutral’ is silly because it is premised on the idea of male being blue and female being pink and ‘gender neutral’ being its own category. Why not just have baby clothes organized by age and displayed in all colors? The bodies of male and female infants are similar, after all.

I looked at the toy section, also arranged by gender. Toys for boys are mostly active, and involve some sort of ‘doing’ – trains, cars – and toys for girls are mostly ‘passive’ and are overwhelmingly dolls. I was struck by how early our culture starts to form the ideas of what a boy should be and what a girl should be.

she noticed that the mothers of baby girls were very restraining, constantly telling the girls ‘don’t touch’ or ‘stop and be nice,’ and she noticed that the baby boys were encouraged to explore more and were not restrained as much and were almost never told to ‘be nice.’

Did I ever tell you about going to a US mall with a seven-year-old Nigerian girl and her mother? She saw a toy helicopter, one of those things that fly by wireless remote control, and she was fascinated and asked for one. “No,” her mother said. “You have your dolls.” And she responded, “Mummy, is it only doll I will play with?”

I have never forgotten that. Her mother meant well, obviously. She was well-versed in the ideas of gender roles – that girls play with dolls and boys with cars. I wonder now, wistfully, if the little girl would have turned out to be a revolutionary engineer, had she been given a chance to explore that helicopter.

If we don’t place the straitjacket of gender roles on young children we give them space to reach their full potential. Please see Chizalum as an individual. Not as a girl who should be a certain way. See her weaknesses and her strengths in an individual way. Do not measure her on a scale of what a girl should be. Measure her on a scale of being the best version of herself.

Instead of gender roles, teach her self-reliance. Tell her that it is important to be able to do for herself and fend for herself. Teach her to try and fix physical things when they break.

A young woman once told me that she had for years behaved ‘like a boy’ – she liked football and was bored by dresses – until her mother forced her to stop her ‘boyish’ interests and she is now grateful to her mother for helping her start behaving like a girl. The story made me sad. I wondered what parts of herself she had needed to silence and stifle, and I wondered about what her spirit had lost, because what she called ‘behaving like a boy’ was simply that she was behaving like herself.

Another acquaintance once told me that when she took her one-year-old son to a baby play group, where babies had been brought by their mothers, she noticed that the mothers of baby girls were very restraining, constantly telling the girls ‘don’t touch’ or ‘stop and be nice,’ and she noticed that the baby boys were encouraged to explore more and were not restrained as much and were almost never told to ‘be nice.’ Her theory is that parents unconsciously start very early to teach girls how to be, that baby girls are given more rules and less room and baby boys more room and fewer rules.

Gender roles are so deeply conditioned in us that we will often follow them even when they chafe against our true desires, our needs, our wellbeing. They are very difficult to unlearn, and so it is important to try and make sure that Chizalum rejects them from the beginning. Instead of gender roles, teach her self-reliance. Tell her that it is important to be able to do for herself and fend for herself. Teach her to try and fix physical things when they break. We are quick to assume girls can’t do many things. Let her try. Buy her toys like blocks and trains – and dolls, too, if you want to…..

The rest of the article may be read on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s FB page

My dad’s prostate cancer

This post has been moved from my book-blog to this one. My dad finished treatments this spring (2015) and no longer has cancer. The original article was posted 13 August 2014.

The inner workings of a male below the waist
The inner workings of a male below the waist

My dad went in to the hospital today to get his treatment schedule. First he will receive hormone (androgen deprivation) treatment with pills every day for three months, then gold will be inserted into his prostate, then an MR, then seven weeks/five days a week radiation treatment of the gland and finally injections every 12 weeks for the two years after his final radiation treatment.

His form of prostate cancer is somewhat aggressive but not very aggressive.

These treatments will in effect neuter him. So sex-life isn’t going to be the same. I do realize my parents have had one. Four children does indicate that. It’s just not something that I think about in conjunction with my parents. I think I’m feeling kind of sad that my dad is going to lose that part of his life (if he hasn’t already lost it).

How will this affect my father?

Some of the potential side-effects of his hormone treatment are:

  • Reduced or absent libido (sexual desire)
  • Impotence (erectile dysfunction)
  • Shrinking of testicles and penis
  • Hot flashes, which may get better or even go away with time
  • Breast tenderness and growth of breast tissue
  • Osteoporosis (bone thinning), which can lead to broken bones
  • Anemia (low red blood cell counts)
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Increased cholesterol
  • Depression

In some ways I guess we could say that what he is going to go through is what women go through when they enter menopause. I am at that stage in my life and for me it hasn’t been too bad. Hopefully, the intensity of my father’s side-effects will be no worse, but it is impossible to “see” into that future.

His intermittent treatment after the end of the radiation treatment would seem to have some but not all of the above side-effects.

There is a lot of discussion about the various manners of hormone treatment, their effectiveness and their side-effects.

Side effects of his radiation treatment:

I think the type of radiation treatment my dad is going to get is called Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). There seem to be no side-effects to the treatment except for the possibility of tender skin where the beams are being shot.

Prostate cancer is common

Once a guy hits 50 his prostate gland is likely to grow without it having anything to do with cancer. By 70 eight in ten guys have enlarged prostates. My dad is 74. Some of these develop into cancer. In fact, it is the most common form of cancer among men. As with all sorts of cancer, early intervention matters along with how aggressive the cancer is. Age also matters. The older you are when you develop cancer, the likelier it is that you will survive it. Some men die of other causes without ever having known that they have developed prostate cancer.

Am I worried? NO, not even a little bit. I just wish my dad did not have to go through the process that he is about to enter. I also wish he didn’t have to be neutered. That sucks royally.

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Sources:

Enduring bullying – one of my heroes

This post has been moved from my book-blog to this one

Hans Petter som liten

Man, I’ve re-written this article so many times. Who knew something like this could be so difficult.

My little brother. The baby of the family. A baby who is 195 cms worth of length. I think that translates to about 6’4″ for those of you who have not yet advanced to the metric system.

We go back a long way. In fact all the way back to the time when I was about 6,5 years old. I have no memory of him being born. In fact I have very few memories of him as a very small child other than the fact that he was really cute, I wanted to bite the top of his head and we would swing him between us down the long hill from church. He loved that.

My memories of my youngest brother do not really amount to much until the time our family moved to the US. He was around 7 years old at that time and his life was about to get really tough.

You know how some kids take to bullying like ducklings take to water. Well my baby brother had the great misfortune of meeting up with some of those kids. As a seven-year old boy my brother had three things that made him stand out. The first was that he was a gentle kid (he is now a gentle man) who did his best to avoid trouble. The second was that his English was poor due to us just arriving in the US. Finally, he has dyslexia. Three gifts for a bullier. Some kids and their parents I just want to beat to a pulp.

Five years of hell ensued. How did he respond to the bullying? For one thing he never changed from being a gentle person. He just wouldn’t give in and give up. He was fiercely protective of those he loved. At one time he even took on another kid for something that kid said to me. I didn’t stop the fight. In fact I figured it would probably give him credit with the other kids. But that was and is the kind of brave person he is. If someone he loves is being hurt, he will do his best to protect that person even if it means getting hurt himself.

It’s one thing to do something like that if you are good at it – whether you fight with words or physically. But my brother has never been one who has quick come-backs or been a good fighter. Granted, all he has to do is sit on you now and he’ll probably win, but still. Fighting with words and body has never been his strength. He has paid for that a great many times.

Why would that make him my hero? It’s all about love. His love for people is so great that he is willing to risk himself (and he knows he is risking himself) for them so they might hurt less.

2015 Jun 16: Long hours at work leave her little time for brother in need by Deborah Palmer

Some questions came to me as I read this article:

  1. Are equal rights for different wage earners as divided in Norway as they are in the US?
  2. Why do some people feel a greater responsibility for taking care of their family members than those who do not feel as responsible?
  3. What happens to Stevie when Ms. Palmer dies?

These aren’t questions I have the answer to, although the first one is one that has a partial answer. Some lower wage earners have good rights here in Norway. Others do not. I imagine how organized they are is the reason. As to the second question: I do not think I would feel the same kind of responsibility unless I had been raised to feel that way. My sister probably would. She is the kind of person who takes care of family members and is one of the most generous people I know.

Every workday morning, DeBorah Palmer pulls on her navy blazer and starts her rounds. She is a security guard who patrols the galleries of a Manhattan museum and assists the visitors streaming through its doors.

But as she points the sightseers to this exhibit or that one, an urgent question inevitably pops into her mind: How is Stevie?

She means Stevie, who loves Iron Man, plain M&Ms and Popeye’s fried chicken. Stevie, who has a sweet inside basketball shot and a passion for dinosaurs. Stevie, who is a 54-year-old man with autism who cannot read a book or cross a street on his own.

Stevie Palmer is her beloved brother, her closest relative. He is intellectually disabled and counts on her to oversee his care at his group home in Queens. It is her personal mission to ensure that he has everything he needs.

Finding a way to do that — while holding onto a $16-an-hour job that offers little in the way of flexibility — is her biggest challenge.

“He’s my No. 1 priority,” said Ms. Palmer, who is 56, single and stressed. “Sometimes I feel guilty. I think to myself, ‘Am I doing enough?’ I think I could be doing better.”

The question, though, is how. Well-paid professionals are accustomed to slipping out occasionally during workdays for school meetings, doctors’ appointments or to check on sick relatives.

Lower-paid workers can’t count on such luxuries.

Ms. Palmer, for instance, works 40 hours a week, as well as about 20 hours of overtime, Tuesday through Saturday. Her 9-to-5 shift is fixed: She cannot duck out for an hour or two to meet with her brother’s doctors or the specialists who provide his care and training. She has to take a day off for that.

Where would that day come from? Well, she has five personal days a year. But she usually needs at least two or three of those days to visit her own doctors, who treat her high blood pressure, arthritis and other chronic ailments. She has two weeks of vacation, but has little say over when she can take them.

The result? She rarely attends meetings to discuss her brother’s care and goals. And sometimes a month or two go by without a visit. Ms. Palmer and her brother have only one common day off each week — Sunday. (Mr. Palmer attends a day program and does janitorial work on Mondays, her other day off.)

On some Sundays, Ms. Palmer is simply too exhausted to take her brother to the movies, basketball games or museums that he loves.

Ms. Palmer, who lives in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, is grateful for her job. It has been her lifeline since she was laid off as a research manager for a nonprofit nine years ago. But she desperately misses the flexibility she once took for granted as a white-collar worker. ………………

You can read the rest of the article on David Snape’s site

The importance of touch

ashes-and-snow-11
Ashes and Snow 11 | Photographer: Gregory Colbert | Source: Chillout

Social phobia is a strange condition. As far as we know, the only way out of it is by doing. Doing is the hard part. I wonder if being Asperger has made my son’s social phobia even more difficult to work his way out of. I also wonder what I could have done better.

Hindsight, compels me to look for what I might have done differently. At the time, and with the knowledge and understanding I had back then, I would not have been able to change what was done. But hindsight does show me that perhaps there are some things that could have helped my son’s social phobia.

The one thing that might have made the greatest difference was understanding what my son meant when he told me he did not want me to touch him any longer. Sadly, my cognitive processes are literal.

A long period ensued where he received very little cuddling in any form from me. Both of us suffered, but neither of us could figure out what to do. I imagine this made his way into the deepest depths of his phobia much quicker and his ascent a lot more difficult. Eventually, and after much reflection, I talked to him about it and we agreed that I would ask him if he wanted his back scratched (his child-hood favorite cuddle). Otherwise, I could try to touch him during the day. If he did not want the touch, he would let me know.

Changing our behavior towards each other has mattered for our relationship. We seem to be happier together. Has touching more had an effect on his social phobia? Well, that is difficult for me to judge. I would hope so, but it was late in coming.

If you are an Asperger parent and your child tells you (s)he does not want to be touched (or any similar wish), find out exactly what (s)he means by that. I wish I could have known then what I know now.

True story by Annie Mimi Hall from Gentle Kindness blog

Gentle Kindness by Kelly Rae Roberts
Gentle Kindness by Kelly Rae Roberts

An example of just how important the little things in our own and others’ lives can be. Annie Mimi Hall shows us that five seconds a day may matter more than we could possibly imagine.

The David and Christina Show

A few years ago, I was a home health aide for 2 autistic brothers. They lived with their aging grandmother, because their mother had given up on taking care of them. I went to the house every week day and met their school bus. I got them off okay and then helped the grandmother with their dinner, baths and bed routine.

When I had time in between dinner and bedtime, I would do activities with them. I brought my guitar over sometimes and they liked that. I brought art and crafts supplies and we created things together, so that they could feel that they accomplished something.

The younger one was about 14 and he was more severely autistic than the older brother, who was 16. The 16 year old used to play baseball with me in the yard. I bought a plastic bat and ball at the store myself. The…

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Turning 50

Artist: Stanton Macdonald-Wright
Artist: Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Portrait of a Woman – 1925

I wonder how much my autism influences how I view turning 50 years old. Two days ago that supposedly important anniversary arrived at my door and placed me firmly in the center of the middle-aged.

There will be no major celebration. I just don’t have it in me any longer to pretend to like to be the focus of attention of a larger group of people. Remembering how it was to throw a party for my 40th birthday, just entrenches the dread of another such getting together for the sake of paying attention to me. My siblings and parents have expressed their disapproval, but all of them know me well enough that they can also joke about the matter.

So, 50. Hmmm. I thought I would be dead by now. In fact, I had hoped I would be. It just seems a waste to have people my age alive. That, and my depressive nature, work to make death an attractive alternative. Yet I have so very many things in my life that ought to give me a strong desire to live.

My husband is an amazingly wonderful person whose incredible patience and loving nature covers me with his goodness. My sons are also pretty neat people. Both are kind and generous while also embracing a direct approach to communication. All three of the men in my life are people I enjoy spending time with and time without.

Due to the vagaries of luck, our financial status is fairly secure. We have a home to live in that we no longer owe money to anyone on. My husband enjoys his work and I enjoy mine. Our neighbors are nice to us and we try to be nice back. Our country is well-off and has politicians that are no better or worse than politicians in many other countries.

In spite of this, I have no desire to live. Neither do I want to kill myself. I just happen to think that it makes no sense for me to live. Aaahhh, the strange nature of chemical and electrical impulses in brains.

So, 50 is no different for me than 49 or 39. There may be more experience and wisdom collected inside my head. However, all of my old struggles are still with me and those I love.

Autistic mom / dyslexic daughter

What dyslexia might look like
Source: Flinders University, Australia

Dyslexia is a strange syndrome. Some scientists even deny its existence and seem to think that all a dyslexic person needs to do is have reading intervention to  “get over it”. Other scientists have found factors that indicate that dyslexia is a real thing. As a mother, I am going to state here and now that dyslexia is a very real thing.

The members of this family are fairly intelligent. My dyslexic daughter is no exception to that. In college he does well on her oral exams (at least thus far) and not so well on her written. It has been this way all his life. Sometimes that has caused laughter. When it comes to educational institutions anger, frustration and sadness have been more common emotions. We have even had teachers wondering if he was still dyslexic when he got to high school. The lack of knowledge among educators of what dyslexia entails is staggering.

Source: Reach, Don't Whine
Source: Reach, Don’t Whine

The traits my daughter shows are:

  • Appears bright, highly intelligent, and articulate but unable to read, write, or spell at grade level.
  • Labelled lazy, careless, immature, “not trying hard enough.”
  • Isn’t “behind enough” or “bad enough” to be helped in the school setting.
  • Tests well orally, but not written.
  • Feels dumb; has poor self-esteem; easily frustrated and emotional about school reading or testing.
  • Difficulty sustaining attention.
  • Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations, experimentation, observation, and visual aids.
  • Confused by letters, numbers, words, sequences, or verbal explanations.
  • Reading or writing shows repetitions, additions, transpositions, omissions, substitutions, and reversals in letters, numbers and/or words.
  • Reads and rereads with little comprehension.
  • Spells phonetically and inconsistently.
  • Trouble with writing or copying; pencil grip is unusual; handwriting varies or is illegible.
  • Clumsy, uncoordinated, poor at ball or team sports; difficulties with fine and/or gross motor skills and tasks.
  • Often confuses left/right, over/under.
  • Computing math shows dependence on finger counting and other tricks; knows answers, but can’t do it on paper.
  • Can do arithmetic, but fails word problems; cannot grasp algebra.
  • Excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations, and faces.
  • Can be class trouble-maker (in the sense that he was often told to be quiet and stop asking questions).
  • Had unusually early or late developmental stages (talking, crawling, walking, tying shoes).
  • Prone to ear infections; sensitive to foods.
  • Unusually low tolerance for pain.
  • Strong sense of justice; emotionally sensitive; strives for perfection.
  • Mistakes and symptoms increase dramatically with confusion, time pressure, emotional stress, or poor health.

Source: http://www.dyslexia.com/library/symptoms.htm
Font from http://www.dyslexiefont.com/

What dyslexia might look like 2
Source: ETNI-English Teachers Network

Having two brothers with dyslexia and a sister who worked/had worked at the Dyslexia Foundation in Norway, I knew what signs to look for and what needed to be done when it became apparent that dyslexia had joined our family. Early on I started telling educators what I suspected. Alas, being a parent with expert knowledge about one’s child does not in any way result in being taken seriously.

We went through kindergarten and seven years of Skjetten primary school doing their very best to ignore the problem and place all blame for failure on my daughter. For quite a few years home-schooling would probably have been the best solution for us (hind-sight knows all). It seemed as though I had to go through everything her teacher had taught over again at home. At home we had me read out loud the texts and take breaks when attention flagged. We were also able to discuss the topics we read and try out alternative ways of getting through the material.

Source: Gentle Stress Relief for Peace Health & Happiness
Source: Gentle Stress Relief for Peace Health & Happiness

As more and more written material had to be handed in, I helped her by going through his texts making sure he had remembered to punctuate, have a capital letter at the beginning of sentences, check spelling and split her sentences.

One of the problems for dyslexic with both reading and writing difficulties is that they tend to not punctuate. Not a single period, comma or capital letter in a whole paragraph. Add to that the letters that get turned around, words that are spelled phonetically, double and single consonants and more, and the need for someone to look through their work is obvious. I would read the text back to my daughter and ask her if that was what she meant. Sometimes we would laugh because her intended message was not the words on the page.

At times we quarreled about the meaning of the assignment. After a while, she realized that I needed to teach her how to decode the wording of assignments. Then we worked on how to set up an essay. Right away I need to tell you that I am absolutely not the best teacher when it comes to writing essays. Autism tends to take over and I write in bullets rather than paragraphs. But I do know what the textbooks state and that is what we worked with.

Poetry. Oh, how I hate analyzing poems. But we could work with the basics – spotting metaphors, allegories and type of rhyming. Analyzing other texts was no easier, but somehow all of this knowledge was placed into her head by us.

Artist: Tamara Adams
Family Reading Together – ethnic print of folk art original / Artist: Tamara Adams

We read together. Homework and pleasure reading has taken hours and hours of our lives. Audiobooks and practicing reading texts that interested him added to her sense of accomplishment and pleasure.

Now she has school-books for the blind (when they are available). Other than that, my daughter scans texts to be read by her reading program. When she comes home we sometimes read through material and talk about what on earth these incredibly wordy scholars are talking about. Without auto-correct her spelling is still unusual. Modern technology has made life a whole lot simpler for the dyslectic (unless they are unfortunate enough to have the kind that completely messes with their sight).

Having a neurodivergent mother has in this instance been a good thing for my daughter – especially a neurodivergent mother with a love for words. I don’t know if we could have done the same thing if my interests had been otherwise. My daughter and I were extremely LUCKY that our loves and struggles could work together.

We still read together – he is now 20. I write about those experiences on my book blog humanitysdarkerside.com.